In June, the U.S. Supreme Court decided several cases in ways that required them to abandon facts and engage in intellectually dishonest legal analysis. This was especially true for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision, which overruled Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), which held there was a constitutional right to an abortion. In overruling Roe and Casey, the court declared abortion was no longer a constitutionally protected right.
The court also overturned a 100-year-old concealed carry safety regulation in New York, took away some power of the Environmental Protection Agency to fight climate change and continued to demolish the separation of church and state by allowing a Bremerton coach to pray at games and pressure his players and others to join him.
These Supreme Court cases are a part of a broader right-wing backlash against progress.
In the last decade, movements like Occupy, the Standing Rock protests, the Women’s March, the airport protests against Trump’s attempted Muslim bans and the Black Lives Matter protests have shaped the cultural discourse.
We have also seen more critical analysis of systems and institutions. For example, Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” won many awards and was on daytime TV. Intersectional feminism is now a broadly understood idea. Critical race theory has provided a critique of laws and policies where specific governmental actions created race-based harms. Shows like “Watchmen” brought the racist history of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre into people’s homes, leading to more understanding of systemic racism, which can include state-sponsored terror.
Despite my deep fears about how far this backlash against progress could go, I remain optimistic. We will do something about this lawless court. Court expansion (or maybe the impeachment of the three justices appointed by a president who led a multilayered coup attempt at staying in power) is being thrown around as a viable option.
When abortion comes back to the court, my hope is that arguments supporting this essential form of health care will be based in the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments and the fact that they are post-Civil War amendments.
These amendments sought to ensure that people had bodily autonomy and were free from any kind of bondage. For enslaved Black women, freedom included freedom from forced pregnancy.
Any future right to abortion should be centered in the idea of bodily autonomy and integrity. We must shift away from relying on the right to privacy — and the secrecy and shame embodied in the notion of privacy — and shift to something based in the more accurate history of the amendments: the right to bodily autonomy.
Read more of the July 20-26, 2022 issue.